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TSA Liquid Rules: Everything You Need To Know

We’re breaking down everything you should know about the TSA’s liquid rules so you can make it through security successfully.

In addition to check-in times and boarding times, baggage requirements and carry-on restrictions, and everything you need to plan for when you actually arrive at your destination, you also need to think about getting through security in the first place.

While going through TSA is just about the least exciting part of any trip, whether you’re flying domestically or abroad, it’s important to be familiar with the requirements. The goal is to get through security as quickly and easily as possible.

We’re here to make your life (and your travels) even smoother. So let’s talk about TSA’s liquid rules — and what you can do to make these rules work for you, from streamlining your luggage to tips and tricks for getting through security and to your destination even faster.


The Basics: What Are the TSA Liquid Rules?

Lucky for all of us, as many rules as TSA seems to have, they’re all readily available

That means you can double and even triple-check before you leave for your trip that everything is in order. The rules are pretty straightforward — but if you’re not prepared for them, they can be inconvenient and lead to you throwing your items away to get through security.

You’re allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids (which includes aerosols, gels, creams, or pastes) when you’re going through security. Each individual product can be no more than 3.4 oz (or 100 ml) on its own. You can check liquids of any size, although we’ll talk a bit more in a later section about how to do so without opening your bag to a flood later on.

People often remember this as the 3-1-1 liquids rule: you can have roughly (3) oz of liquid inside of (1) quart clear plastic bag, and each passenger can only have (1) plastic bag each. Liquids include things like toothpaste, deodorant, lighters with fluid, and lip balm, so it’s important to be generous with your interpretation of liquid to avoid being held up at security.


Are There Any Exceptions?

In fact, there are a couple of exceptions. You can bring duty-free liquids — kept in their secure, tamper-proof bags — in your carry-on bag as long as they were purchased internationally and you’re getting on a connecting flight. 

You’ll also need the original receipt for your purchase to prove it was made within 48 hours and that you’re not just trying to get around the rules.

There are also exceptions for medical necessity and accessibility when it comes to things like prescription liquids, creams, and gels. This can also apply to things like breast milk, baby formula, or baby food and anything you might need — such as ice packs — to transport these items. 

TSA officers may test liquids or do additional screening if they’re not able to X-ray them. The security officers should talk you through the screening process of any medically necessary liquid, and you can always reach out to transportation security in advance if you’re concerned.

All passengers are also entitled to hand sanitizer, although it does need to adhere to the 3 oz rule as well despite the exemption.


What About International Flights?

When you’re travelling from the US to another country, only TSA’s rules apply. However, this can be a problem on your return flight if you’ve brought more liquids than another country allows, as it could lead to you getting stopped coming through security. 

Additionally, if you land at a foreign airport and are getting on a local connecting flight, you may have to go through a security checkpoint in that country before you board. This could lead to issues if your carry-on doesn’t adhere to local regulations. 

So it’s always a good idea to make sure that your carry-on luggage doesn’t just adhere to TSA standards but also to the standards set by transportation security wherever you’re headed.

Here are a few basic guidelines:

  • Australia: Liquid, aerosol, or gel items must be in containers of 100 millilitres (volume), 100 grams (weight) or less.
  • Brazil: Liquids must be in a transparent plastic bag with a total volume of 1 litre, and each container must be 100 millilitres or less.
  • England: Liquids, aerosols, or gel items must be in containers of 100 millilitres or less, and must be in a transparent plastic bag with a total volume of 1 litre and measurements of approximately 20 cm by 20 cm
  • European Union: Liquid, aerosol, or gel items must be in a transparent plastic bag, with a maximum capacity of 1 litre, and must be 100 millilitres or less. 


What’s the Best Way To Bring Liquids in Your Carry-On?

In addition to adhering to the rules above, there are some steps you can take to ensure that your journey through airport security is so smooth you’ll wonder whether you were somehow upgraded to TSA precheck. 

We’ll start with the most obvious: make sure that any travel toiletries you bring are in reasonable quantities. When you pack liquids, it’s best to stick with travel-size options, or else buy your own 3 oz containers to decant your shampoo, lotion, and other products into. 

If you’re going to put your toiletries in our Toiletry Bag, you’ll be all set for organisation. But you may need to factor in an additional plastic bag (even a sandwich bag will work) for your liquids inside the larger toiletry case. Either way, you’ll want to be sure that your clear, quart-sized liquids bag is easily accessible in your carry-on baggage so you can get it out quickly and easily when you get to the X-ray machine.


What’s the Best Way To Check Your Liquids?

If you’re bringing a gallon of sunscreen for your beach vacation or else just have too many products for a carry-on, you can bring your liquids in your checked baggage. There aren’t specific restrictions for the amount of liquid you can bring in your checked luggage on TSA’s website, so the sky's the limit. You can load up on contact lens solution and peanut butter ‘til your heart’s content.

When it comes to checked bags, you’ll just want to be careful of spillage. Keep your liquids in secure containers, and ideally, separate them into smaller bags within your checked luggage so that if something were to break or burst due to pressure, it doesn’t ruin everything you’ve packed.

With this in mind, protecting your electronics especially is key. You can keep your camera safe with our Camera Protect bag. It’s well-padded and has detachable dividers to keep all of your kit organised. And it’ll keep your prized camera safe if a shampoo bottle should burst in transit.

Not to mention, this protective cell is the perfect size to fit a couple of bottles of wine. So if you’re returning from your trip with your favourite tipple, you can keep it safe and insulated and avoid any breaks or cracks that could have disastrous results for everything else inside of your checked bags.


Is It Better To Buy Liquids at Your Destination?

While the idea of circumventing TSA’s liquid restrictions by buying all of the liquids you need at your destination may seem like the easy solution, it’s not always the best idea. Especially if you’re travelling abroad, it might be hard (or impossible) to find exactly what you need. 

It’ll also eat up valuable time from your trip if you’re searching high and low for your go-to moisturiser in Barcelona when you could be sipping sangria.

Additionally, the same TSA rules will apply when you head home. You’re likely to end up with a lot of waste and will end up throwing products that you didn’t use up away before you board the plane again. While some things may be better off purchased on arrival, it’s generally better and more efficient to simply follow the rules and pack everything you need.


You’re Ready To Ace TSA

There are two types of people in the world: people who hold up the line in security, digging through their bags for all their travel toiletries and finishing off their water bottles, and people who breeze right on through. 

Those people — our kind of people — slip through security with ease by removing their laptop  and clear bag of liquids — and just like that, they’re on their way while everyone else is still tying their shoes.

While we can’t all be expert travellers at all times, and setbacks are just part of the journey, making sure you’re familiar with security regulations when you travel is one way to make your life easier and your journey smoother. So next time you get ready to fly, do so with the stress-free feeling of knowing you’re totally prepared.

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